Web Log Entry #0020, Sunday, December 1, 2002: Day 13
Anchorage Sunrise: 9:44am Sunset: 3:51pm High Temp: 43° Low Temp: 31°
I went to see "Somewhere In Between", a world-premiere play at University of Alaska. It reminded me that I really like theater. Or to be accurate, I really, really like the concept of theater. Looking at the display case of past shows in the lobby of the UAA Arts Building brought back the joy in the cooperative growth of a play from script to full-blown production. When it's good, theater is the most fun you can have with your costume on (and sometimes off). Of course, it isn't always good, and the fun bits are counterweighted by the unpleasantness of being trapped in a bad show, working insane hours to beat the opening-night deadline, and dealing with arrogant idiots. (Whether theater draws a disproportionate number of arrogant idiots or it causes otherwise intelligent people to behave that way is an ongoing debate in the business. Could be a bit of both.) That I haven't been in a cast or crew for over ten years says something.
(Also in the display case was a poster for, and this is the truth, a Star Wars version of "Comedy of Errors." Yes, Shakespeare... IN SPACE!)
I usually spot college theater a few points and grade leniently. However, if I had seen this exact show as a professional theater production, I would not have felt any more ripped off than I do when I pay over $20 for an evening's entertainment (just for the record, a reserved seat was $13). The set, costume, lighting, makeup, acting and singing were respectably solid. Most performers played multiple roles credibly, with different accents and demeanors. Of course, they're all college students, so regardless of the character's age, they all look 18 years old.
The less satisfying aspects of this performance were the direction and writing (This play won the Last Frontier Edward Albee playwriting contest, and is a world premiere, so I'm assuming that this is a first-time playwright). Now, I don't expect depth from TV, and therefore can fritter away two hours where I learn nothing more than a few new ways that people can get hit in the groin and not feel ill used. However, when I invest two or more hours of my life watching a play, I want to be dazzled and delighted, or laugh myself to tears, or gain some sort of understanding or insight into the Human Experience. I want something new on which to ruminate, and it's okay if the answer isn't spelled out for me.
With this play, I wasn't sure what the author and director were trying to say. Was the theme a simplistic "Don't be an idiot, reaching out to others is better than pushing people away"? Or "If you're a bitch in life, you can redeem yourself with 500 years of being nice to people after death"? Did I miss something? Maybe all it needs to be is an opportunity for college students to use the f-word repeatedly in front of grown-ups without getting in trouble.
I usually don't quote other people's reviews, but Lani Schawalbe of "The Press" (Anchorage's free weekly newspaper) praised the set designs by saying: "Put a sack of potatoes and a sick dog on one of (Frank) Bebey's sets and it would almost be worth sitting there for two hours." I think that's putting a lot of pressure on the potatoes. However, team up the sick dog, sack of potatoes, and a MONKEY, and I'm there. I might even go twice.
Oh, yes. No gunfire, explosions, car chases, or nudity, some hitting, lots of swearing. Check it out, when it comes to a theater near you...
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© 2002 Evan M. Nichols